October marks the beginning of an important time period for Medicare recipients. Oct. 15-Dec. 7 is Medicare’s annual open enrollment period, when Medicare recipients can choose their health and drug coverage for the next year.
To help persons make these important choices, information has been sent to every beneficiary in October. A person’s current health or drug plan sent information called an “Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC) by Oct. 1 about the changes in their plan for 2016. Also Medicare sends a booklet called “Medicare and You” to each recipient in early October with information about plans and changes for the upcoming year.
Oct. 1 was also the first day that health and drug plans could begin marketing and advertising their 2016 plans. Seniors and disabled persons enrolled in Medicare will find their mailboxes filled with literature from these plans.
Shelley Matson, Elder Benefit Specialist for Vernon County, is a resource for seniors for their Medicare and health care insurance options. “I encourage every Medicare beneficiary to review the options available to them every year so they can make their best, informed choice,” Matson said.
Every plan has made changes for 2016. Some changes are minor, like a slight premium increase, while other changes are major, such as entire plans ending. In Vernon County, six plans are terminating – four Part D plans and two Advantage plans offered by the company UCare for Seniors. “Changes, whether big or small, are the reasons that plan review every year is so important,” continued Matson.
Research has shown that fewer than 10% of all seniors choose the Part D plan that was best for them. Name recognition of the company alone is not a good way to choose a plan. Rather, plan choice should be based on a combination of factors — coverage of all medications, plan premiums, deductibles, preferred pharmacy, medication copays, and expected annual out-of-pocket costs.
To enroll in a new plan for 2016, contact that plan directly by phone or online, or Medicare can do enrollments by phone or on their website. The new plan will be effective on the following Jan. 1. If a person misses this opportunity, they may have to wait a full year until the next Open Enrollment Period to make changes in their coverage.
Assistance in reviewing Medicare options is available directly from Medicare at 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227) or on the internet at www.medicare.gov. Or by calling the Wisconsin Prescription Drug Helpline at 1-855-677-2783 for those age 60 and over, or those younger than 60 can call the Disability Drug Benefit Helpline at 1-800-926-4862.
Local help may also be obtained from your county’s Aging & Disability Resource Center. For Vernon County call 608-637-5397 or 1-800-500-3910 to schedule an appointment. Information on programs to assist with the costs of Medicare premiums and drug expenses is also available from these resources.